Introduction by Rabbi Dr Yoni Birnbaum
Welcome to the United Synagogue self-led Walking Tour of the City and East End of London, in which we hope to give you an outline of our Jewish London story, learn something new, and to inspire you to find out more.
My name is Rabbi Yoni Birnbaum and with my collaborator Ben Vos, we are going to take you to several key locations in the Jewish history of London, either on foot or virtually. Just use the map link or address for each stop of the tour, using a map if that’s helpful. If you don’t want to complete the walk, which might take several hours, you might choose to skip some of the locations, or to visit some or all of them using an online ‘street view’.
Each stop on the tour has a podcast connected to that place, in which either Ben or I will give a brief description of an element of London Jewish history, from the first Jews in the city to the end of the last world war. There are also documents and images to give you a better sense of time and place.
On this tour, sometimes we’ll address broad themes great and small, but never unimportant, from kings and propaganda, to mass immigration and kosher bakeries. We’ll also speak about individual Jews, their triumphs and failures, their successes and their broigeses. But we only have room for a few of the thousands of people who might be mentioned, and none for Parliamentary politics, or for London Jews in the military (though Jewish battalions are written in stone at the Holborn memorial to the Royal Fusiliers). Nor have we addressed the spectrum of Jewish businesses, from cinema to scrap metal to shipbuilding; nor organisations with Jewish origins or significance: AJEX, the Grocer’s School, Lyons, Canary Wharf, Tesco, the Regent Street Polytechnic or University College. Important phenomena from anti-Semitism to Sunday trading reforms, Yiddish theatre and anarchism, the Tottenham Outrage to the occupation of the Savoy Hotel, barely appear at all.
Please be safe, and don’t overdo it. Hopefully, London isn’t going anywhere, so you don’t have to do the whole walk in one day. We would love to hear feedback: perhaps we can add locations and subjects, if there’s demand.
In the meantime, let this be an introduction, and we encourage you to learn more about all the above and their part in the microcosmic but also global, always fascinating story of us, the Jews of London.